There are a few disorders that can keep someone from good sleep as well as some easily changeable lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise and whether the bedroom environment is relaxing—or not. The National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week, observed from March 10 to 16 this year, is a great time to review how much sleep we should be getting and how we can improve the duration and quality of our down time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night. One in three adults do not get enough sleep, and apparently, this is another list on which West Virginia falls on the wrong end. In 2014, between 38-44 percent of West Virginia adults reported consistently getting less than seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, which put us in the highest percentile along with Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland and other states.
And not getting enough sleep can help lead to a variety of medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression. That’s one reason why this topic is an important one to Monongalia County Health Department. Well-rested people are healthier.
So, let’s go over the tips on how to try and improve that statistic. First, develop a relaxing bedtime routine. The calmer and more relaxed you are when you slip between the sheets, the better.
It’s best if you go to bed at night and wake up in the morning at the same times every day, including weekends. That can be a challenge for people who rightfully want to sleep in after a long work week. Ironically, Sleep Awareness Week begins just as we’re losing an hour—maybe of sleep—as we spring forward for Daylight Savings Time this weekend. Still, a consistent sleep time is one of the main components to achieve a healthy sleep pattern.
If you don’t fall asleep in 20 minutes, get up. Lying in bed awake can be frustrating, and checking the clock frequently does not help.
Next, the calmer the bedroom is, the better. Bedrooms should be quiet and dark and kept at an optimal temperature. It’s better for the room to be on the cool side. Since my husband installed a smart thermostat, we have it set go down to 68 degrees Fahrenheit at bedtime and to start warming up just before we rise.
Removing electronic devices from the bedroom is definitely a tough one these days, whether it’s a tablet or smartphone that you use for reading or surfing the web or a TV so you can watch someone named Jimmy do a late-night show. But those devices can be stimulating, which is the opposite of how you want your brain to be as you try to unwind from your day. It is recommended to avoid screens for at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
Also, avoid eating large meals and drinking caffeinated beverages or alcohol too close too bedtime. When you belly is busy digesting, you are not going to get your best sleep. Caffeine is obviously a stimulant and that’s why it’s great for mornings. And even though alcohol might initially relax you, it can wake you up in the middle of the night too. You also might want to avoid drinking a lot of water before bedtime, for obvious reasons. Frequent trips to the bathroom are not conducive to good sleep.
Finally, while you don’t want to exercise a lot just before bed, getting plenty of activity during the day will help you feel tired at night.
If you follow at least most of this advice and still have trouble sleeping, you may want to talk to your doctor. Sleep is fundamental to our health and well-being, so figuring out how to have a good night will go a long way to making you feel good.